We have seen the Henrys, the Fowler’s, the Cantonas and the Shearers. The list of all-time Premier League great strikers is an elite club of its own. These strikers had one thing in common, their eye for the goal. If we narrow it down, barely any of them had similar game plays. Cantona had flair, while Henry was the agile dribbler who ran past defenses. At the end of the day, all of them scored goals. A lot of them. Significant for their own teams, the names of these players has been etched in the history of English football.
If we had to mention the contemporary greats, we have with us the likes of Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero and the recently retired Didier Drogba. As time passes, we are moving to a new age of footballing stars. There are younger talents who have displayed exemplary skill sets and promise. Among them, the two who stand out are Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku. The youngsters have taken the League by storm and have been among the top 5 scorers of the season for quite some time now.
Kane & Lukaku: Potential at its best
The one word that comes to our mind when we mention Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku is prolific. There is no better term to describe these potential era-defining strikers of the English Premier League. One of the best young players in the world, the Belgian and the Englishman have been in a sublime form over a few seasons now. What many termed as ‘one season wonder’ is now a consistent set of performances year in and year out. While Harry Kane has seen a silent rise from the youth levels of Tottenham, Lukaku already has played for four clubs in his career. Leaving the impeccable game impact aside for a minute, both of them have insane stats for their age.
If we compare to the past generations of legends at this age, then signs are really positive. At the age of 23, only Messi, Cristiano and Ronaldo(Brazillian) had more professional goals than Lukaku. On the other hand, Kane’s evolution from a reserves player to the main team striker is something not seen in many players. Kane has the same number of goals after 100 games as Thierry Henry did. To put it simply, both these players are on a rampage in front of the goal. Their career graphs are going up gradually, season by season. The signs are indicative that the players are on their way to join the greatest strikers of the Premier League.
Tactically, both these players have a very different yet distinct way of playing the game. We will discuss Kane’s gameplay first.
If anyone has watched Tottenham’s games closely, there is one distinctive feature about Harry Kane. Despite being deployed as a central striker, the player spends more times on the flanks. He always drifts off towards the wings while the wingers make direct runs towards the goal. The idea is pretty simple, that is overloading the fullbacks. Again, he is not a false nine player. He does not drop deep to receive a ball and then have a go at the goal like Messi did for Barcelona.
The entire point of such a manoeuvre is to confuse the centre backs. The central defenders never know how higher up on the pitch are they supposed to go to mark the striker. The fullback, on the other hand, cannot handle winger and Kane at the same time. The Tottenham team takes advantage of such defensive imbalances and scores when the time is right. Kane has a knack for scoring goals and is also good in the air. Inside the box, he can finish from almost anywhere with his varied range of shots.
Coming to Lukaku, he is a very different player than Kane. Lukaku is one of the strongest players physically and the Belgian doesn’t shy away from imposing it. An ever-lingering presence in the opposition D-Box, there aren’t many Premier League defenders who can stand up to the powerful striker. Lukaku has been usually deployed as a lone striker up front, but he works really well with a secondary striker or a dynamic CAM. He has a decent amount of pace and is good in the air. Lukaku is a master of breaking the offside traps and troubles the opposition defenders in the box. He has been in the professional football world since the tender age of 16. Having gained years of experience already, the 23-year-old has the maturity of more experienced players.
Roadblocks to success?
Both these players do show a lot of promise, but they also face the danger of fizzling out. One of the most significant differences between the modern day game and the past is the advancements in technology. It is more difficult to sustain tactical edges and theories in this era of rigorous analyses. That is one problem facing a lot of young talents. The ones who show skills often wither in the shadows as teams develop mechanisms to block them during games. That is one reason why players like Lukaku and Kane are still not considered as the greatest ever.
Lukaku, who scored four in a game recently often disappears for a few games. He will score two-three in a game before a drought ensues. That quality often renders him unreliable. Though he is still Everton’s best bet in any form, Lukaku needs to work on his consistency. Everton do have one of the better sides in the League yet their table position isn’t a reflection of the same. Therefore, even if he has the numbers on his side, his contribution in crunch situations is not that significant. Lukaku needs to improve that aspect of his game and rescue Everton from difficult games instead of taking part in goal fests where the match is already one.